15 years

It is no secret that my days 15 years ago were comprised of needles, vodka, knives, blood, vomit, powder, pills, and self-destructive behavior. It is all a blur, but I know that sometime soon (15 years ago) I almost died and became handicapable. As I reflect on my life tonight, I can honestly say I’d change nothing. Indeed, I am supremely happy with my life. No, I don’t have a great deal of material possessions, but  I am supremely content within; something I lacked for much of my life. If I tell you something it is this: you’re alive; if anything be grateful for that. We so often chase that which is elusive; feel inadequate and never enough. You ARE enough! Don’t sell yourself short 🙂 To my friends struggling: you are not broken; maybe scratched, but you’re worth  salvaging! I am not special; if I can come from THAT, trust that ANYONE can! Whatever you do, believe and have faith that anything is possible!

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Me

In early November of 2003, I had reached my lowest point and attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs and alcohol; I awoke from a coma about a week later. Unable to move or make noise, I found myself as one sees a newborn baby. I was extremely anorexic and malnourished; I was also very addicted to drugs and alcohol. What strikes me now as no coincidence is this: my family was holding vigil over Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria when I came back to life.

My life had completely taken a downward spiral since my days as a glowing college philosophy student. My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder. While in school, I modeled myself after the great philosophers and truly thought the greatest thoughts were derived from the use of some sort of substance. I imagined myself holding council with the greats in absinthe bars across Europe and sharing my brilliant two cents with those around me. As an adolescent, I was an avid athlete and won many scholastic awards; I graduated ahead of my class and the future was in my hands. My addictions had other plans:  a dentist’s daughter, private school and university taught, I often found myself homeless and at the end of my addiction, living to drink and drug. My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night. No longer could did I care about my mental or physical health; I was physically addicted and drinking to live. How dark it is before the dawn!

Upon overdosing I found myself in a coma on life support; unable to breath on my own, my systems were shutting down. Recently, I found out that one night, they prepared my family for the worst. It is very important for posterity’s sake that one takes into account what atrocious shape I was in, as you may find the later portion of my story rather uplifting. After awakening, my living nightmare began, I had cut off the oxygen supply to my brain and was unable to move or make noise, due to the large holes now in my cerebellum. I wish I could say that was an a-ha moment, an awakening of sorts; sadly it was not. I did not drink, drug, or practice my eating disorder for  three years, as I was physically unable and due to mobility issues had moved back home with my mother (my father committed suicide in 2001). After three years, I was walking with a walker, and ready to live on my own again… so I thought. By 2007, I had destroyed what little progress I had made; I was once again drinking and practicing the eating disorder, only this time I was severely disabled. In the spring, I found myself, once again, in a psych ward. Guardianship was relinquished to my mother; I know not why, but all of a sudden a switch flipped on inside of me and I decided then and there I would “get better”, so to speak.

I remembered the philosophical teachings of Epictetus, how one creates their own circumstances and of the great psychologist Viktor Frankl who claimed that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I began inpatient hospitalization to nourish my body and uncloud my mind. Once I was well enough, I began working with a nutritionist and attending support groups; I abstained from alcohol and drugs, but faltered with the eating disorder. Honestly, it was difficult to let go of all of my unhealthy habits. Resisting drugs and alcohol, I remained sober for 3.5 years. On December 14th of 2013 I, again, drank; that is an important date for me; that is the day I took my life back. I decided enough is enough and all but wore out my copies of my motivating philosophical books. The next few months found me sober, quitting smoking, halting the eating disorder, becoming vegetarian, and obtaining a gym membership. It’s truly amazing as to the things we can do when we apply ourselves! All this while, I’ve held onto the notion that there is reason for one’s suffering; if anything, it is to share hope with those who may well be fighting their own battles. For the first time in 20 years, I myself began to see hope. I sought refuge in the works of William James and studied Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. These works led me to believe there was an immutable sense underlying all; it was not up to me to figure my life out, but I could, indeed, live to show others that hope is for all, not simply the worthy.

In 2014, I was doing so well all around that I set a new goal for myself: to go back to school to be a personal trainer. You must remember that from 2003-2004 I could barely move; so this was a lofty goal. I gained my certification on the first try, joining only 10% of my class; next up, find employment. Believe it or not, I applied at gyms and health and nutrition stores. I secured a position in a health store and took the paratransit bus to work; I remembered stories from my childhood: these helped me overcome adversity. Aesop’s Fables, morals, and abstractions guided me through troubled waters. CS Lewis is another favorite who I studied intensely, not for his religious, but philosophical teachings. I believe now that “Even at night there are stars that shine”.

I have not had an eating disorder or used substances since 2013; neither have I eaten meat or smoked. As I now know, there is meaning in the suffering. Life happens; it is up to us as to its meaning. I know today that I make a choice everyday as to the path my life will take. “I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my destiny.” Hope is available for everyone; take heart; it is yours if you want it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My story

In early November of 2013, I had reached my lowest point and attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs and alcohol; I awoke from a coma about a week later. Unable to move or make noise, I found myself as one sees a newborn baby. I was extremely anorexic and malnourished; I was also very addicted to drugs and alcohol. What strikes me now as no coincidence is this: my family was holding vigil over Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria when I came back to life.

My life had completely taken a downward spiral since my days as a glowing college philosophy student. My dream of becoming a professor had been replaced by the hellish torture of alcoholism, drug addiction, and an eating disorder. While in school, I modeled myself after the great philosophers and truly thought the greatest thoughts were derived from the use of some sort of substance. I imagined myself holding council with the greats in absinthe bars across Europe and sharing my brilliant two cents with those around me. As an adolescent, I was an avid athlete and won many scholastic awards; I graduated ahead of my class and the future was in my hands. My addictions had other plans:  a dentist’s daughter, private school and university taught, I often found myself homeless and at the end of my addiction, living to drink and drug. My dreams had been replaced by nightmares and it all came to fruition that bleak November night. No longer could did I care about my mental or physical health; I was physically addicted and drinking to live. How dark it is before the dawn!

Upon overdosing I found myself in a coma on life support; unable to breath on my own, my systems were shutting down. Recently, I found out that one night, they prepared my family for the worst. It is very important for posterity’s sake that one takes into account what atrocious shape I was in, as you may find the later portion of my story rather uplifting. After awakening, my living nightmare began, I had cut off the oxygen supply to my brain and was unable to move or make noise, due to the large holes now in my cerebellum. I wish I could say that was an a-ha moment, an awakening of sorts; sadly it was not. I did not drink, drug, or practice my eating disorder for  three years, as I was physically unable and due to mobility issues had moved back home with my mother (my father committed suicide in 2002). After three years, I was walking with a walker, and ready to live on my own again… so I thought. By 2007, I had destroyed what little progress I had made; I was once again drinking and practicing the eating disorder, only this time I was severely disabled. In the spring, I found myself, once again, in a psych ward. Guardianship was relinquished to my mother; I know not why, but all of a sudden a switch flipped on inside of me and I decided then and there I would “get better”, so to speak.

I remembered the philosophical teachings of Epictetus, how one creates their own circumstances and of the great psychologist Viktor Frankl who claimed that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” I began inpatient hospitalization to nourish my body and uncloud my mind. Once I was well enough, I began working with a nutritionist and attending support groups; I abstained from alcohol and drugs, but faltered with the eating disorder. Honestly, it was difficult to let go of all of my unhealthy habits. Resisting drugs and alcohol, I remained sober for 3.5 years. On December 14th of 2013 I, again, drank; that is an important date for me; that is the day I took my life back. I decided enough is enough and all but wore out my copies of my motivating philosophical books. The next few months found me sober, quitting smoking, halting the eating disorder, becoming vegetarian, and obtaining a gym membership. It’s truly amazing as to the things we can do when we apply ourselves! All this while, I’ve held onto the notion that there is reason for one’s suffering; if anything, it is to share hope with those who may well be fighting their own battles. For the first time in 20 years, I myself began to see hope. I sought refuge in the works of William James and studied Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”. These works led me to believe there was an immutable sense underlying all; it was not up to me to figure my life out, but I could, indeed, live to show others that hope is for all, not simply the worthy.

In 2014, I was doing so well all around that I set a new goal for myself: to go back to school to be a personal trainer. You must remember that from 2003-2004 I could barely move; so this was a lofty goal. I gained my certification on the first try, joining only 10% of my class; next up, find employment. Believe it or not, I applied at gyms and health and nutrition stores. I secured a position in a health store and took the paratransit bus to work; I remembered stories from my childhood: these helped me overcome adversity. Aesop’s Fables, morals, and abstractions guided me through troubled waters. CS Lewis is another favorite who I studied intensely, not for his religious, but philosophical teachings. I believe now that “Even at night there are stars that shine”.

I have not had an eating disorder or used substances since 2013; neither have I eaten meat or smoked. As I now know, there is meaning in the suffering. Life happens; it is up to us as to its meaning. I know today that I make a choice everyday as to the path my life will take. “I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my destiny.” Hope is available for everyone; take heart; it is yours if you want it.

 

Watch me go!

I have been very busy since the end of June, for good reason: I AM WALKING AGAIN!! Yes, I use a cane, but the freedom from not having my walker is priceless. I am beyond blessed and grateful. 16 years ago, I was told I’d have to spend my days in an assisted living facility and would be fortunate if I could perform menial tasks. I have lived on my own for 14 years, I am walking on my own, and I went to school 4 years ago to be a personal trainer. I have always been one to not do what I was told; I suppose this worked in my favor. I have very large holes in my cerebellum which drastically affect my motor coordination. However, this will not stop me. I encourage everyone :young, old, minor or major illness to  reach beyond the confines and never allow yourself to be limited. I said no to all medical opinion. I am no super specimen; I just work very hard and refuse to settle for the status-quo. ANYONE can live this life if they just put in the effort. You don’t need to disappear into the ether, simply live your damndest.

I love you

“Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough.”- Richard M. DeVos
There are so many opportunities to do this throughout our day, yet few take advantage. As human beings, I believe we are always seeking encouragement; this often stems from the most unlikely places. Being fellows, we can, indeed, be the color in someone’s otherwise grey world. Personal circumstances may dictate otherwise and life may seem all but hopeless, but know that it is absolutely NOT. Whether it is a smile, kind word, or random act of kindness; actions indeed make an impact. Know that you are loved unconditionally. Even if I don’t personally know you, know that someone loves you for the simple fact that you ARE and nothing more. Know that you are worthy of being loved and of giving love to others. We sometimes feel as though we are alone, you are NOT; trust that I have been and continue to be on the front lines right along with you. And if no one else tells you, “You can do it and I love you!”

Preaching

“One filled with joy preaches without preaching.”
–Mother Teresa

 

I hope I never come across as preachy; if I do, I apologize. Someone who has had great influence on me once told me: we walk this path shoulder to shoulder. Woe be it to me to stand on a soapbox and attempt to control people. I cannot; each person will do what they want to do; I simply aim to encourage and inspire, never preach. Let bygones be bygones and you can indeed affect the world; not letting anyone affect you negatively. No one! If I make you angry, I apologize in advance. Some people despise love and happiness and find it obnoxious; it strikes me as very funny. Let your actions speak for you. I am simply a conglomerate of my words and especially deeds; these must be congruent if I am to live a fruitful life of balance. Today, I am filled with joy, despite external “things”.

Things don’t just happen

Let it be clearly known; I did not just suddenly become good. It has taken years! of extremely hard work to become who I am today. I have a horrible past, writhe with substance abuse, cheating, lying, things done to me, self-mutilation, serious eating disorders, disabilities, death, etc., etc. I am not my past. Yes, it affects me, but I had to realize; either I live in my past and wallow in misery or I learn from it and move on. I have spent enough of my life feeling sorry for myself; I know what it’s like to dwell amongst the weeds. I choose to live in the sun, with the flowers, today! There is no magic pill. Often, we seek out a quick fix for our problems. I can use alcohol and drugs and food and sex and love and psychotropics as a temporary solution, but it is just that; temporary and fleeting and I am thus left with myself, after all is said and done. It is not until I search within, am honest with myself and others, and do not hide and suppress my true being, that I find solace. If I am not doing well, I don’t hide it. These days, it is rare that I’m not. For example, one of my very dear friends passed away a month and a half ago; this was followed by 3 other friends dying and the anniversary of my father’s suicide all within one week. Needless to say, this took its toll. I did not, however, take these things to heart and use them as an excuse to feel sorry for myself; how I meet challenges is a choice…these things only stop me if I give them power over me. My attitude is more powerful than people and events in my life. I am not Superwoman, I have flaws; I am perfectly imperfect. Love yourself despite your past and your flaws and I challenge you to be patient and honest and kind to yourself and others!

I am fine! Life just got away from me; I have been busy adulting. I belong to an organization that requires MUCH of my time and effort, and have been writing for them; I simply haven’t had the energy to write for my own blog! As adults, we are often tasked with things which we don’t necessarily enjoy, but are the right thing to do. I am beyond fortunate; I enjoy EVERYTHING I do. Even cleaning cat poop is a joy for me; when you have a grateful heart, even the mundane becomes wonderful. Cleaning cat poop means my cats are healthy and I HAVE cats. Waking up super early means I got enough sleep the day before; attending things I’m supposed to and participating makes me a productive person and not because I HAVE TO but because I WANT to. These days, I only surround myself with and participate in things that bring joy to and enrich my life; I have spent much time simply going through the throes of life; working to make ends meet, having relationships and friendships expected of me (luckily, I have also had some WONDERFUL friendships built on love), and feeling deep shame for not being and doing that which I felt was expected of me. Today, I can truly that these are things of the past. I challenge all of you to break your chains and step out of your boxes; to truly enjoy your life and be grateful for what you do have, even if it is not much. There is absolutely plethora of things to be grateful for; simply pause and count your blessings 🙂

What I grew up thinking

I heard, constantly, the phrase “Life sucks”… and then you commit suicide because it’s so bad. Undoing this notion is a constant work in progress,considering the large sway it held. I have my moments of getting caught up in the woes of the world, I am human; I have emotions. However, viewing the world itself as negative is not something I subscribe to at all; it makes one bitter and hateful, always seeing the bad things around them. Maybe it’s selfish, but I like doing well and sharing my happiness with others because it makes me feel good, and hopefully it influences people. I do not have the key to life, I have my struggles;but giving up or being hateful is just not on my dance card these days!

Mental: I hear “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” Sometimes things are seemingly impossible to surmount, though. But you can get through them! If you are reading this, you are alive; you have survived all your trials and are still standing. Best not to stop now; what would that accomplish?? Sometimes life gets you down; sometimes you have to say “I WILL FIGHT”  (for GOOD things) to it and keep on pushing through.

Physical: Physical ailments can have a significant impact on the mind. You never know how someone else is feeling to themselves. Someone elses struggles might be taken in stride by me or conversely, unfathomable.We are all in different places in life and have issues specific to us. Sometimes the best we can do is show encouragement, care, and ultimate love to others. It is horrible when people struggle physically,but as I cannot change their bodies, showing compassion is possible, at least.

Social: Love people until they love themselves; is a good theory, but harder to practice. This can have significant impact, though; if people did not practice this on me, I would not be writing this. Allow people to love you; sometimes it gets annoying, but it can change you. Not love you for your physical attributes, but love you for you (because you are JUST as deserving as anyone else).

love is everywhere